City of Rocks National Reserve contains a wide variety of natural resources in a virtually pristine area. This makes the Reserve a prime location to conduct research on a wide variety of subjects. The staff at the Reserve are collaborating with scientists from the NPS, the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as professors and students from several universities. The rare surface exposure of two usually deep crustal granites in proximity enthralls geologists. The northern most pinyon pine forest provides a laboratory for researchers studying the migration of this species. Even catastrophic events such as wildfires provide researchers opportunities! In 2000 and 2001 two large fires swept through the southern part of the Reserve and now scientists are studying how bees recover after fires. Explore our research section for more information on the diverse scientific studies being conducted within and around the City of Rocks National Reserve.
Upper Columbia Basin Network (UCBN) projects at City of Rocks:
The Inventory and Monitoring Program is a major component of the National Park Service's strategy to preserve park natural resources "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."
The Goals of the I&M Program Are:
Inventory and Monitoring of Ringtails
The goal of this project was to investigate a possible northerly range expansion by ringtails into southern Idaho and if present, to provide information on the distribution and abundance of ringtails within the City of Rocks National Reserve (CIRO) and Castle Rocks State Park (CRSP). Climate change, along with habitat alteration, invasive species, and increases in the frequency and severity of fires, has been rapidly altering the ecology of the Great Basin ecosystem.
Photo by Kristen Bastis
Pack Rat Middens - University of Arizona
Pack rats, abundant in City of Rocks, collect vegetation from a range of about 50 meters in diameter, to create their nests. All water consumed by pack rats comes from the vegetation and results in a fairly viscous amber colored urine. The remaining liquid in the urine, excreted in the nest, evaporates and encases collected vegetation into hard midden.
A sample from this midden is currently under study by a team from the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey, headed by Dr. Julio Betancourt. Dr. Betancourt believes this sample to be about 10,000 years old. This research is to determine what the climate was like in the past and how it has changed over time.
Because middens are abandoned after a short period of time, they are uncontaminated "time capsules" of several decades of natural life, centuries, and millennia after they have occurred.
Did You Know?
City of Rocks was a major landmark for emigrants traveling along the California Trail. This unique geological area provided rest and inspiration for the many weary travelers who were heading for Granite Pass and ultimately for California.